Volunteer Canada

Building a National

Volunteer ACtion Strategy

The Current State of Volunteering in Canada

Historically, Canada has had a robust and resilient volunteer sector. From coast to coast to coast, people have come together in a myriad of ways—to lend a hand or an ear, to share a skill, or to donate time or resources.

And that’s still happening today. However, over the last few years, the volunteer sector has faced uncertainty. Declining volunteer rates and challenges in recruiting and retaining those volunteers, coupled with an ever-increasing demand for services, has resulted in growing social and economic vulnerability for people in Canada. Through these challenging times, volunteer organizations continue to serve their communities without a comprehensive support system to meaningfully engage volunteers and to address persistent barriers that keep volunteering out of reach for many in the first place.

In the face of urgent challenges—such as the rising costs of living, our aging population, the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing loneliness pandemic and the climate crisis—it is more important than ever to revitalize volunteerism in Canada.

Why do we need a national volunteer action strategy?

We know that we need to enhance existing supports and structures to meet the moment and rise to new challenges and opportunities. And we know that we have a generational opportunity to develop a National Volunteer Action Strategy for Volunteerism. The strategy will be a comprehensive and coordinated effort aimed at:

  • Creating new participation and engagement frameworks and pathways
  • Addressing critical economic, cultural, and social cohesion challenges
  • Building Canadian communities inclusively through volunteering and service.

A National Volunteer Action Strategy is essential to unify all of Canada to work toward a shared vision for inclusive participation and volunteering that recognizes, amplifies, promotes and supports the many different ways Canadians work together to build strong, inclusive and connected communities.

What We've heard in our Consultations

Currently, Volunteer Canada is assessing the feasibility of building this National Volunteer Action Strategy. As part
of this effort, we’ve surveyed our membership and held a series of virtual and in-person consultations
and one-on-one interviews with leaders across the philanthropic, nonprofit and corporate sectors. So
far, we’ve heard that we need to act on this together. Now!

Connecting with others to develop a shared sense of purpose […] ultimately leads to better health outcomes. There's a direct connection to improved mental health and improved democracy. There's no better place and no easier entry point than by just simply getting involved. And so, the Strategy can lead to supports.

What's Next

Now that our consultations have wrapped up, we’ve begun to engage the federal government on this initiative to ensure that our policymakers are involved in building a more enabling environment for volunteering. We’re also consulting with jurisdictions in Canada (e.g., Nova Scotia, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia) and internationally (e.g., Nigeria, Ireland, Scotland and Australia) for lessons learned on the development and implementation of their volunteer action strategies. We’re gathering the information from this process in a Roadmap, which will include recommendations and an operational plan for creating the National Volunteer Action Strategy. In addition to identifying key assets, gaps, opportunities and stakeholders, the Roadmap will provide a deeper understanding of the conditions for a successful National Volunteer Action Strategy alongside recommendations for its development. The Roadmap will also include a plan to evaluate the National Volunteer Action Strategy.

Interested in Learning More?

If you’d like more information on the National Volunteer Action Strategy or would like to get involved, please email Chad Lubelsky, Vice-President of Strategy, Impact and Development at clubelsky@volunteer.ca.

VOlunteering matters

Thanks to the generous support of Canada Life, we’re also putting together a “Volunteering Matters” Technical Advisory Group.

During the Roadmap consultations, we asked stakeholders across the country their thoughts on creating a National Advisory Council on Volunteering. In response to feedback about the need for formal space to channel local or regional concerns up to National policy and program development as a key process and output building block we are creating “Volunteering Matters” – a mandate specific, time-bound Advisory Group. This group comprised of local and regional volunteer experts, will accompany us on strategy development – ensuring that local concerns and expertise are built into the National Strategy. We look forward to sharing more information about this work and how to –get involved in early 2024.

Thank you to Canada Life for supporting this key part of strategy development.